The government and the UN on Tuesday signed the final legal agreements needed to establish the long-awaited Khmer Rouge tribunal.
One agreement details the security and safety arrangements for the trial, including the protection of the accused, while the second specifies how facilities and services will be provided. Addressing a steamy room heated by faulty air-conditioning at the trial chambers, Michelle Lee, the UN’s deputy tribunal administration chief, called the agreement a landmark.
“You are the very first official audience to sit in the gallery of this court,” she told an audience of government officials, diplomats and journalists. “From the chairs in which you are now seated, the people of Cambodia will finally witness the judicial process for which they have long waited.”
Sean Visoth, the trial’s administration director, said the UN will be responsible for security in the courtroom, while the government will be responsible for general security outside the trial. The government will provide the trial buildings, detention facilities for the accused, safe housing for witnesses, all electricity, water and telephone services, he added.
The UN is to provide vehicles, computers, training and general support for the defense.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An noted that it has been nine years since Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Prime Minister Hun Sen opened negotiations with the UN for a trial.
Sok An maintained that care taken in designing the trial had caused the long delay.
“We wanted to have international standards because in 1979 we established a trial for Khmer Rouge that was not recognized internationally because it followed only national practices,” he said.
“While seeking justice for the victims we must maintain our security, peace and social stability achieved through national reconciliation,” he added.
Sok An also revealed that Armenia and Namibia have provided money to fill the Cambodian government’s budgetary shortfall. “We understand the deep significance of donations of $1,000 from Armenia and $500 from Namibia,” he said.
Asked if she was worried about the health of aging Khmer Rouge leaders following the death of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Saturday, who was also accused of genocide, Lee said: “I just hope the trial starts soon.”
UN tribunal press officer Peter Foster promptly blocked further questions to Lee.
“This event was about the signing of the two supplemental agreements, it is over and we have nothing more to add,” he said.